How to Structure Your Company’s IT to Achieve Business Goals

Leadership shapes companies, one decision at a time — and leaders are making crucial choices in increasingly significant ways when it comes to the information technology upon which their businesses rely and thrive.

A recent Dell survey helps tell the tale: 80% of business executives polled say they’re turning their attention to IT issues — particularly those involving rapidly expanding data resources, the analysis necessary to grapple with them and the process of putting tools in place to leverage information in pursuit of new ideas and better performance.

They’re making decisions that streamline back-end operations, augment employee collaboration and boost productivity in a number of ways.

Below, we take a closer look at the technology choices that business leaders are helping to steer as they work with IT to align new software and platforms with their companies’ missions and goals.

The right tools: Empowering employees

The goal is to boost productivity, strengthen morale and make more time for in-house teams to do what they do best. Technology is an avenue that can take business leaders toward those results.

“Finding the right technical tools has helped our business function like a well-oiled machine,” says Lenny Verkhoglaz, chief executive officer at Executive Care, a home healthcare company.

With 11 offices in four states, Verkhoglaz is making IT-level decisions surrounding the software that now assists in all of the accounting necessary for each location. A custom-built solution ended up being the right approach for Executive Care.

“We focus so much on operations, making sure our clients are treated to the best care available, that finding software packages to help in this arena and then scaling them to fit the demands of our business has helped decrease the time it takes to complete payroll and billing,” he says.

The software is cloud-based, Verkhoglaz says, which means a number of key things to his strategy and operations: “You never need to install anything on your local device, it’s accessible from anywhere and the software is available from any device,” he says. “Cloud-based software is a huge plus in that it can help better identify what everyone in the system is doing. Without getting into too much detail, it can allow you to track employee productivity, even when you’re not around.

Now, Verkhoglaz’s employees get to spend more time doing the work they’re passionate about, reinforcing the core value of the business and minimizing rote tasks — and that’s a key part of the tech-introduction equation for almost any company.

Below are some additional approaches — and specific tools — that can help your business identify and progress along a similar path.

Internal and external social networks break down barriers. Business leaders can’t ignore social media. Employees are almost certainly going to use it, seek it out and spend time with it — so implementing ways to create productivity out of that scenario is a wise business choice. And it’s entirely possible, if leaders build policies that promote social media’s use in company-centric ways.”Internally, it can become an engagement tool, tear down silos, foster collaboration and increase transparency,” says Bhupesh Shah, a professor at Seneca College’s Social Media Graduate Certificate Program, in a recent National Center for the Middle Market report. The study cites platforms such as Salesforce Chatter and Yammer as two tools that can help provide those results.

Simplify back-end operations to minimize employee pain points. If your business is in a similar boat as Verkhoglaz’s, you might explore a custom-software solution that automates elements of your back-end ops. But not every leader is going to approve that line item; it can get pricey to go custom.Other solutions include systems such as ShippingEasy and SecureNet, which, through a cloud-based service, allow for the streamlining of billing and processing without building a proprietary product.

For Dan Oleson, founder and CEO of Ankle Swagger, those two platforms have allowed his swiftly scaling company to stay nimble — and to remain focused on the next conversion instead of hand-holding a slew of complicated transactions.
“Buying and processing orders must be simple for customers, but also for employees,” Oleson says. “Friction on either end of this spectrum can detrimentally impact profitability.” Software as a service (SaaS) platforms, such as SecureNet, continue to flourish as more companies rely on multi-channel, seamless payment integrations.

Use data to fuel new and better decision-making. Big data, which was once primarily within the realm of large corporation’s budgets, is now available to businesses of all sizes — they’re using this data to drive both increased sales and marketing results, and to develop new business opportunities.Dell reports that more than half (58%) of the business leaders it polled now include data visualization to illuminate actionable insights as a critical step in their decision-making process. Nearly 60% say the two-year horizon for big data for business is at least in part marked by the proliferation of personal data dashboards — environments capable of providing self-service analysis at the level of individual employee queries. Major players in the big-data sector include MemSQL, MapR and Databricks. But there are many others, and a multitude of iterations when it comes to what these companies do in the still-evolving space.

Meet the new experts

There’s a learning curve associated with these technologies: As business leaders put IT decisions into place, and employees begin to navigate the ins and outs of the new tools they’re provided, the old model of importing experts to handle the tech in play might be increasingly replaced by a company’s existing team members — who are now trained and highly experienced.

“This is a real learning curve industry,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, in the Dell study. “And it is hard for midsize firms to attract experienced big data analysts. The lessons their employees learn in early big data projects will pay off in the next several years.”

Beyond that, the advent of the business leader as technology decision-maker is changing the very way that IT and business work together, at top levels.

That is, executives in both fields tell Dell the top reason new technologies deployed in their companies succeed is strong cooperation and collaboration between segments of the company. Silos, it would seem, are coming down, and chief players in both business and IT are poised to speak with an increasingly unified voice.